On the Menu

Serving Australia’s favourite Indian Street food for the past twenty-two- years, we speak to Raja, the brainchild behind Sabrini’s delicious creation Menu.

We all love a Sabrini samosa or an aloo tikki, tucked away cooling itself in a freezer at our home for the next get-together or just to fill that void of an afternoon snack.

Just one bite of any Sabrini products, whether paneer tikka or the Punjabi samosa one will definitely be transported back in time, and you can almost find yourself salivating on a railway cutlet somewhere between Delhi to Amritsar on a Shatabdi express.
For many of us, the story starts at the grocery store and stops there which is quite fine, but it has been a long journey for Sabrini since its inception in 1999, mainly when Australia was coming out of its recession.

Twenty-two years later, in the middle of a global pandemic, Sabrini products are now not only available in any Indian grocery stores but it’s now selling fast at Coles at the frozen food section besides popular Australian brands.

When most businesses are still trying to keep themselves afloat Sabrini foods are going robust launching and manufacturing new products locally.

Just recently, we at G’day India and the Indian Weekly caught up with Raja to talk about his journey and Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s visit at the Sabrini facility.

Congratulations on the recent visit of the PM, Mr Scott Morrison at Sabrini facility. How does it feel?

It’s definitely an honour to host the Prime Minister in our facility and having an engagement from the government, especially from the top man of the country, motivating the business to grow. Also, the government’s vision to manufacture Australian products, which can be potentially exported is very motivating. I like the way the government thinks, and I thank them for the support that they have shown.

The PM’s visit to our office is very encouraging especially in front of the media was not only motivating but it gave us the sense of encouragement to take the business further.

You have just launched Australian made Chicken Tikka & Biryani Range to your list of products.

What made you introduce them now?
Few things first, obviously, with all the challenges that’s happening overseas due to this COVID situation. Secondly, we always wanted to manufacture our products locally and these products came into life because of this interest, and we also wanted to make a protein range. Thirdly, our research showed that there is not an extensive range available right now, so all these three factors gave us an opportunity to do something locally. We had an overwhelming response.

How has Sabrini innovated itself as commanding position as the most preferred Indian convenient food in Australia?
We put all emphasis on the brand which is going to cover the quality, consistent supply and quality is really the most important ingredient for any product. Because of this approach we’ve been appreciated, and businesses have continued doing business with us so basically all Sabrini products are really for the Australian market.

Now how did you get celebrity chef Harpal Chef to create a premium product range for Sabrini? How did that come about?
That’s a very good question.
Manufacturing products overseas or here anyway is not an easy thing. Basically, I love food, but I’m not a good cook. If people ask me to cook, I’ll be really bad.
But I want to grow the business, so the idea of bringing somebody who has hands-on knowledge knowing how to engage with the products and also with Sabrini’s vision was necessary. Someone who was keen, made sure the recipes are good because it has a signature on it. On bringing a celebrity chef, we wanted to make sure that it is eleven out of ten not just ordinary.

Chef Harpal Singh was a very good choice for us because he’s not just a celebrity chef, but he really cooks well.

Prior to COVID we used to bring Chef Harpal once a year or sometimes twice a year to Australia to engage in a workshop with the Indian and Australian audiences; he knew exactly what to do.

Then according to their taste, he would combine their feedback into an original recipe to create that product for us; and we made sure the production is executed perfectly. Having a chef onboard has made Sabrini unique, especially when a chef is so rooted in the culture, travelling to different parts of India. So, he really can get the recipe from the grassroots level.

When the PM visited us at our facility, he asked for Chef Harpal Singh and that’s when we know how valuable he is to the product apart from just creating good recipes.

I know this one is going to be a bit difficult for you but if you only have to choose one product from the Sabrini range, which makes you feel over the moon, what would that be and why?
It’s a difficult one. I would say it’s the Punjabi samosa; we have made it for the market here. I would say it’s the best samosa in the market because we keep getting repeated orders, and that tells something that people cannot have enough of our samosas.

What gives Sabrini an edge over its competitors?
We want to put a signature on our recipe. It’s not just a product, a label or a commodity that comes in. We want to have our own signature on products that people love.
Sabrini’s main focus is on the brand I think that’s what we are trying to set us apart from others I would say.

Sabrini is known to be a team player, you value your team a lot. How does it help?
Only the team has helped us to bring the dream into reality.
People have been with us for many years, and that’s what I respect and without the team, I will not be here.

We value them a lot and they reciprocate the same respect to me.
All who works in Sabrini is like a family it’s just not them but it’s also their family who are a part of the bigger family – Sabrini. This mantra has been with them since its inception.

Can you share with us some major challenges and how did you overcome them?
Challenges keeps me active.
When I started in 1999, well almost started in 1998 to understand the business, understand the market understand how to do things. It was a tough time because Australia was coming out of recession.

There was no interest in encouraging anybody I knew at the time, no interest in any new products to be embedded into the market. It was a tough time in those days.

It was pretty challenging, and the exchange rate for 1 Aussie dollar was about 54 cents US.
The challenges are even bigger today, like the ocean freight which has almost gone up almost 15 times more than usual but, that also brought us a solution to start our manufacturing here.

Besides, we always need a good team and always need funds into the business which is an ongoing challenge that we will be having but we will be handling it pretty good as we move on.

What is Sabrini’s secret recipe for success?
My answer is if you have your vision clear and if you focus on it, it will happen. Never lose focus on your mission.

Are there any surprises coming in your range?
Definitely! Next year is going to be an exciting year for us.
We will be getting into a few different lines that will create a shift in the market with the lines of products we will introduce, but definitely interesting things will happen.

Where do you see Sabrini as a brand in the next five years?
That’s a difficult one to say. Our mission is anybody who wants to eat Indian should be either eating a Sabrini product or buying a Sabrini product. I think Sabrini has been well placed in the market.

Whether an Indian or non-Indian anybody who loves good quality food just knows it has to be Sabrini and that’s the vision we want people to familiarise with.

How did the name Sabrini come about?
Even though I have a son but my wife and daughter becomes very special as a husband and a father.

It’s been a very interesting as I wanted to combine both the names to create a business name.

All of a sudden one night it came to me. Why don’t I combine Sabita’s Sab with my daughter’s Harini to make it Sabrini? It sounded nice to me and to all our well-wishers. It’s within the family and the family name is very important.

It’s a family run business and my wife is fully focused on the business. It’s a small enterprise where people feel like a family.

As we conclude our interview, we can see how Sabrini just came with lightning speed and took over the market. An Indian business in food to be standing tall and proud after twenty-two years says a lot about the business and the founder. We wish Raja and his team all the very best for the future and definitely couldn’t think of anyone else to quote than the chef himself, Chef Harpal Singh “Great things are achieved by a small one to start with!”

By Nandita Chakraborty